Why SEO Plugins & Guidelines Are A Little Dangerous
An interesting thing in the SEO world the last decade is all the SEO tools.
Obviously many of them are very valuable.
The ones that provide insight into what people are searching for is obviously important. From a sales perspective you can figure out what terms people search for when they’re interested in buying a product or service like yours.
And if you’re doing content marketing you can figure out the questions your target audience is asking and provide the answers with your content as a way to earn their attention.
Let’s focus on the content marketing a bit more. There are tools specifically for the content marketing side of SEO. Let’s say you’re writing a blog post. You can use the tool as a guide for how you write and format the post.
Seems great, right?
In some ways it is great, but there are some potential trappings if you’re not careful.
Great #1. Readability
Some of the SEO tools provide grades and suggestions to improve the readability of content.
I like this one because it focuses on the ability of someone to read the post. There can be a tendency with some business blogs to get too technical. I find that it’s often a way for someone in business to impress others in the same business.
Let’s say you’re a dentist. Obviously you know a ton about dentistry. You know all the technical terms. You know all the jargon. It can seem like a good thing to show off that knowledge. In fact, I’ve had clients tell us that they need to look good amongst other dentists in the industry.
But the target reader, patients, don’t care about the technical aspects of dentistry. They want healthy teeth. They want things explained in simple terms. It’s not that they’re dumb or anything like that. It’s just that they’re not as deeply involved in the field.
This aspect of an SEO tool helps writers focus on the right target reader. Keep it simple and easy to understand in most instances.
Great #2. Focus Keyword
SEO tools for content marketing typically have a focus keyword for each page or piece of content. This can be great and it can be a trap. More on the trap part later.
The great thing with a focus keyword is that it can get you thinking about what the target reader is searching for. I like to think of it as a question the reader is asking and then using the content to provide the best answer you possibly can.
Great #3. Formatting Guidelines
The tools usually give formatting guidelines. One of the big ones is headings. I’m a big fan of headings. You see them in this post. They breakup large chunks of text.
Nobody likes reading large chunks of text. Long paragraphs are difficult on the eyes. You can’t scan the content. It’s easy to get lost. It’s difficult to go back and find specific things.
This might be one of the best suggestions SEO tools for content marketing make. They perfectly align with what readers are looking for.
Be Careful #1. Focus Keyword
So obviously I mentioned this as a good thing, but there are trappings.
One trapping is that it’s easy to circumvent the SEO tools when they ask for a focus keyword. A tendency is to use a simpler keyword so that your post looks better in the eyes of the tool. The proper way to use the tool is probably to identify a keyword and build the post around that, but if you finish the post and the tool is not approving things you can change the keyword in the tool to make the post look better. This can lead to other issues like reusing keywords, losing focus in the post and more.
Another trapping with keywords in general is writing content marketing pieces using sales keywords. When someone is searching for “dentist” for example they’re probably looking to go to the dentist. That’s a sales keyword.
But “dentist” is not really a practical keyword to use in a blog post. Not as the main focus. Content pieces should usually have longer focus keywords like “when do I start brushing my infant’s teeth?”.
My general rule with content marketing is to focus on what the reader is looking for, not what search engines are looking for. And I think SEO tools try to do this, but not all people use the tools that way.
Be Careful #2. Image Alt Attributes
I definitely like using images in posts. And I’ve gone back and forth on how to title images. And there is another item called the Alt attribute. This is the text that appears when you hover your cursor over an image. There is also a description sometimes.
I like to use all of these things to describe the image, not the content piece. Some of the SEO tools want you to use your keyword phrase in the alt attribute. I think that misrepresents what’s going on. If you’re using an image of a football then tell people searching for images that it’s a football. Don’t tell them the image is about “coaching tips”.
Be Careful #3. Search Engines > Readers
The big thing with SEO tools is to have the right mindset. You’re still writing for readers. You’re not writing to try and win over a search engine.
Yes, you do want to rank well on Google. You want to get traffic from Google. But Google is working hard to make sure that the results they show their readers are the best results.
You have to trust that in the long run things will work out if you do what’s best for the readers. I’ve found that it’s almost better to forget SEO tools for content marketing and to instead focus just on the readers.
A tendency with tools is to focus on search engines. Like I said, I don’t think the tools mean for this to happen, but it does happen.
For example, a tool might say suggest something because “it’ll be good for your rankings”. That gets the focus on the search engine, not the reader. It should say, “because your readers will benefit”.
Use SEO tools at your own risk. If you’re able to keep your focus on the reader then the tools can be very helpful. But if you fall into the trap of focusing too much on search engines then you’re going down a slippery slope. The engines are always working to get smarter, but they’re always working to improve things for searchers. Keep your focus on those searchers and things will work out.